March 17, 2011

Long Run, Short Catch by Asama Iwuoha

I've often wondered at young people who write memoirs. Everyone has a story to tell, but how can the story be whole at an early age? I'm going to be 35 in a couple of weeks and while my life has been admittedly pretty dull, writing about it at this point would seem odd. A person's life isn't the sum of one or even several dramatic events, but of the lessons learned and the actions taken as a result. However, some stories can seem too big or too relevant to wait.

Long Run, Short Catch is one such memoir. I do not know how old the author (Asama Iwuoha) is, and could find no biographical information beyond the book itself. Judging from the tone of the book as well as technology and television shows that are mentioned, I'm guessing she's in her early to mid 20's. Her story is a beefy one, starting with humble beginnings in a cockroach ridden apartment (hey I live in one of those too!), being sexually abused by an alcoholic father, progressing to a spoiled college student that notices the mistakes and imperfections of everyone around her while ignoring her own.

The most striking part of the story for me is the childhood of Michael Williams, Iwuoha's ill-fated husband, in the poverty stricken areas of Jamaica. I really felt for this unloved child being shuffled from one uncaring relative to another. His father, a drug lord, brings him to the United States with false identification, and he grows up an illegal immigrant without having the faintest idea. My sympathy for him faded once he became besotted with designer clothes and began to hate his mother for not providing them.

In fact designer clothes are practically a character incarnated in this book. Iwuoha is obsessed with them as well, and all of her descriptions read like a synopsis of Fashion Week. This aspect has the unfortunate effect of isolating the reader to an extent, as the vast majority of readers have likely never even been in the same room with sunglasses the likes of which Iwuoha describes. As a result it becomes difficult to relate to Iwuoha, as each of her difficulties is seen through a diamond studded screen of wealth and privilege, something that can be a hard sell in the current economy. Iwuoha explains that her drool-worthy wardrobe is not to be envied, as it's her father's attempt to make up for sexual abuse.

I feel Iwuoha's story is an important one. She highlights not only the struggles of immigration, but the importance of young people to think decisions through before acting. Also very evident is that one should examine one's own life before unabashedly pointing out the flaws in others'. I'd like to hear from Iwuoha again in another 20 or 30 years to see where her decisions have taken her.

I received a copy of this book for the purpose of review.

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